Education in Ireland The levels of education in Ireland are primary, secondary and higher (often known as "third-level" or tertiary) education. In recent years further education has grown immensely. Growth in the economy since the 1960s has driven much of the change in the education system. For universities there are student service fees (up to €3,000 in 2015), which students are required to pay on registration, to cover examinations, insurance and registration costs. The Department of Education and Skills, under the control of the Minister for Education and Skills, is in overall control of policy, funding and direction, while other important organisations are the National Qualifications Authority of Ireland, the Higher Education Authority, and on a local level the Education and Training Boards are the only comprehensive system of government organisation. There are many other statutory and non-statutory bodies that have a function in the education systemYears
Education is compulsory for all children in Ireland from the ages of six to sixteen or until students have completed three years of second level education and including one sitting of the Junior Certificate examination. Primary education commonly starts at four to five years old. Children typically enroll in a Junior Infant class at age four or five depending on parental wishes. Some schools enrollment policies have age four by a specific date minimum age requirementsPre-school
Most pre-schools in Ireland are in the private sector. Increasingly children of working parents, who are below school age, attend a myriad of crèches, play-schools, Montessori schools, etc, which have sprung up in response to the needs of modern families. These operate as businesses and may charge often substantial childcare fees. Since 2009, in response public demand for affordable childcare, children may receive two years free preschool the years prior to starting primary schools under the "Early Childcare and Education Scheme". Irish language Naíonraí are growing rapidly across Ireland. Nearly 4,000 preschoolers attend 278 preschool groups.Primary School
Junior Infants (age 4-5/5-6)
Senior Infants (age 5-6/6-7)
First Class (age 6-7/7-8)
Second Class (age 7-8/8-9)
Third Class (age 8-9/9-10)
Fourth Class (age 9-10/10-11)
Fifth Class (age 10-11/11-12)
Sixth Class (age 11-12/12-13)
First Year (age 12–14)
Second Year (age 13–15)
Third Year (age 14–16) – The Junior Certificate examination is sat in all subjects (usually 10 or 11) in early June. Many schools hold Mock Examinations (also known as Pre-Certificate Examinations) to prepare students for the exam situation around February. The mocks are not state examinations: independent companies provide the exam papers and marking schemes – and are therefore not mandatory across all schools. Transition Year
Transition Year (age 15–17) – may be compulsory; optional or unavailable, depending on school Senior Cycle
Fifth Year (age 16–18 or if transition year is skipped age 15–17)
Sixth Year (age 17–19 or if transition year is skipped age 16–18) – The Leaving Certificate examinations begin on the first Wednesday after the June bank holiday every year. Many schools hold Mock Examinations (also known as Pre-Certificate Examinations) to prepare students for the exam situation around February. The mocks are not state examinations: independent companies provide the exam papers and marking schemes – and are therefore not mandatory across all schools.
The Primary School Curriculum (1999) is taught in all schools. The document is prepared by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment and leaves to the church authorities (usually the Catholic Church but not universally) the formulation and implementation of the religious curriculum in the schools they control. The curriculum seeks to celebrate the uniqueness of the child:
...as it is expressed in each child's personality, intelligence and potential for development. It is designed to nurture the child in all dimensions of his or her life—spiritual, moral, cognitive, emotional, imaginative, aesthetic, social and physical...
The Primary Certificate Examination (1929–1967) was the terminal examination at this level until the first primary-school curriculum, Curaclam na Bunscoile (1971), was introduced, though informal standardised tests are still performed. The primary school system consists of eight years: Junior and Senior Infants, and First to Sixth Classes. Most children attend primary school between the ages of four and twelve although it is not compulsory until the age of six
Types of school
Primary education is generally completed at a national school, a multidenominational school, a gaelscoil or a preparatory school.
National schools date back to the introduction of state primary education in 1831. They are usually controlled by a board of management under diocesan patronage and often include a local clergyman. The term "national school" has of late become partly synonymous with primary school in some parts. Recently, there have been calls from many sides for fresh thinking in the areas of funding and governance for such schools, with some wanting them to be fully secularised.
Gaelscoileanna are a recent movement, started in the mid 20th century. The Irish language is the working language in these schools and they can now be found countrywide in English-speaking communities. They differ from Irish-language national schools in Irish-speaking regions in that most are under the patronage of a voluntary organisation, Foras Pátrúnachta na Scoileanna Lán-Ghaeilge, rather than a diocesan patronage. Approximately 6% of primary school children attend Gaelscoils and approximately 3% attend Gaelcholáistí with 187 primary and post-primary schools across the country making it the fastest growing education sector.
Multidenominational schools are another innovation. They are generally under the patronage of a non-profit limited company without share capital. They are often opened due to parental demand and students from all religions and backgrounds are welcome. Many are under the patronage of voluntary organisations such as Educate Together or An Foras Pátrúnachta. At least one proposed school has been approved under the patronage of the regional ETB, who generally run vocational secondary schools.
Preparatory schools are independent, fee-paying primary schools that are not reliant on the state for funding. These typically serve to prepare children for entry to fee-paying independent or voluntary secondary schools.
Most students enter secondary school aged 12–13. Most students attend and complete secondary education, with approximately 90% of school-leavers taking the terminal examination, the Leaving Certificate, at age 16–19 (in 6th Year at secondary school). Secondary education is generally completed at one of four types of school:
Voluntary secondary schools, or just "secondary schools", are owned and managed by religious communities or private organisations. The state funds 90% of teachers' salaries and 95% of other costs. Such schools cater for 57% of secondary pupils.
Vocational schools are owned and managed by Education and Training Boards, with 93% of their costs met by the state. These schools educate 28% of secondary pupils.
Comprehensive schools or community schools were established in the 1960s, often by amalgamating voluntary secondary and vocational schools. They are fully funded by the state and run by local boards of management. Nearly 15% of secondary pupils attend such schools.
Gaelcholáiste's or Gaelcholáistí are the second-level schools for the Irish-language medium education sector in English-speaking communities. Approximately 3% of secondary students attend these schools. (see Gaelscoileanna for the Irish language primary level sector). Grind Schools are fee paying privately run schools outside the state sector, who tend to run only the Senior Cycle curriculum for 5th and 6th Year students as well as a one-year repeat Leaving Certificate programme
Types of programme
The document Rules and Programme for Secondary Schools published by the Department of Education and Skills sets out the minimum standards of education required at this level. Examinations are overseen by the State Examinations Commission. Additional documents set out the standard in each element, module or subject.
The Junior Cycle builds on the education received at primary level and culminates with the Junior Certificate Examination. Students usually begin this at the age of 12 or 13. The Junior Certificate Examination is taken after three years of study and not before fourteen years of age. It consists of exams in English, Irish, maths and science (unless the student has an exemption in one of these) as well as a number of chosen subjects. This is typically a selection of subjects including Art, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Latin, Ancient Greek and Classical Studies, Music, Business Studies, Technology, Home Economics, Materials Technology (Woodwork, Metalwork), History, Geography, Civic Social and Political Education (CSPE), and Religious Education. The selection of optional and compulsory subjects varies from school to school. Most students take around ten examined subjects altogether. Other non-examined classes at Junior Cycle level include Physical Education and Social Personal and Health Education (SPHE).
Transition Year is a one-year informal course taken by an increasing number of students usually ages 15 or 16. The content of this is left to the school to model on the local needs. It is compulsory in some schools but optional in others. Some schools do not offer it. Students may attend structured classes, but do not cover material relevant to the Senior Cycle or the Leaving Certificate exams, and therefore students who choose not to do this year are in no way academically disadvantaged when entering the Senior Cycle. The range of activities in Transition Year or Fourth Year differs greatly from school to school, but many include activities such as work experience placements, project work, international trips or exchanges and excursions. Students may participate in courses such as creative writing, sailing, film-making, public speaking and so on, or enter competitions in science, fashion, motor sport and others that would normally be too time-consuming for a full-time student. Proponents of TY believe that it allows students an extra year to mature, engage in self-directed learning, explore career options and to choose subjects for senior cycle (the results of the Junior Certificate examination do not become available until midway through September, by which time students not taking Transition Year will already have chosen their classes and begun attending). Opponents believe that a year away from traditional study and the classroom environment can distract students and cause problems when they return to the Senior Cycle. They also believe that the activities undertaken in TY prevent some students from enrolling in this year, as they can be costly and most schools charge a fee of a few hundred euro to cover these activities.
The Senior Cycle builds on the junior cycle and culminates with the Leaving Certificate Examination. Students normally begin this aged 15–17 the year following the completion of the Junior Cycle or Transition Year. The Leaving Certificate Examination is taken after two years of study usually at the ages of 17-19.